Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year!” And also one of the busiest times. In all the excitement, hub-bub, and frenzy, it’s easy to forget that Christmas is also a time when we Moravians have the unique opportunity to welcome many, many visitors into our faith communities. Our lovefeasts and candle services attract a LOT of guests, whether adult children of our members, friends, or neighbors looking to deepen their Christmas experience. How do we welcome them in the midst of our own hustle and bustle?
Here are a few ways that we as a church might create an even more positive, renewing, and memorable experience for our Christmas visitors:
Tips for a Visitor-Friendly Christmas:
- The first thing most local visitors will do is “google” your church. Make sure your website is up-to-date and that lovefeast (or other special service) times are clearly visible on the home page. And by the way, is your street address (or a directions link) on the home page? It should be. Don’t assume everyone knows where you are.
- Likewise, be sure your service times and address information are updated on ALL your social media – Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. A good way to find out what people will see is to “google” your church’s name. What are the first five links that pop up? Do you control them? If so, they should be updated.
- Send lovefeast information and times to local newspapers and even small local community publications – be sure to include what a lovefeast is. . . and who Moravians are. Offer to write a special article! Need an updated resource for this? The Moravian Church in North America (http://www.www.moravian.org/) has great information about the Moravian lovefeast, the beeswax candle, and the star, along with good information on what Moravians believe.
- Go beyond the newspaper and your sign. Consider creating posters to display around town, at the local library, grocery store, or community center. Make postcards that your members can give to friends and family telling them about these special services. Create events in Facebook that your members can “share” with their friends.
- What do first-time visitors need to know about attending a lovefeast before they arrive? What can they expect? A lovefeast is unlike most worship services. Provide any unique information on your website (this might include: come 1/2 hour early to find parking or hear the band prelude, how lovefeast is served and what is served – i.e. passing bun/coffee, a nursery is provided OR children are welcome, etc.) so that guests can come feeling prepared for worship.
- Prepare for newcomers once they’ve arrived. What information might you need to include before or during the service to make it more meaningful for those new to the experience? Is there a blurb you could include in the bulletin that describes the origin and meaning of the lovefeast? Are there printed materials about your church, its ministries, and upcoming events easily available for guests?
- How helpful and friendly are your people and your space? Do you have greeters lined up for special services? Do you offer to escort visitors to the nursery or restrooms? Is your church signage clear? Does it direct newcomers to your nursery or restrooms? Is the front door open? Are all the doors unlocked or is there clear signage outside directing people to the unlocked doors? Is parking readily available for visitors?
- Update your ode (order of worship). Are nearly all the hymns familiar? One or two “uniquely Moravian” carols will be great for us, but remember very few visitors will know these songs. Can you explain a little bit about them to the audience? What kind of language are you using in your carols? Is it from this century? Do you really need to include six verses?
- Put the entire service in your ode. Include instructions about sitting and standing, hymn lyrics, and more. Don’t make guests have to navigate the ode AND the hymnal AND the Bible AND the lovefeast AND the candle service. How can you simplify worship so your guests may simply experience the joy of the season without worrying about logistics?
- Try to avoid “church-y” language, acronyms or jargon. Does the offering benefit Sunnyside? What’s that? or BWM? What does that stand for? Do you talk about the “narthex,” the “ode,” and other things that might not be clear to your guests?
- Above all, let your light shine! Christmas is a joyful time . . . a time when we celebrate that most amazing of gifts…our Lord Jesus Christ. Let the love of Christ shine through you and your congregation this Christmas.
Many of the tips above are adapted from Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors by Jonathan Malm. Ask us about this book! It is available to borrow free of charge from the Resource Center.
-Ruth Cole Burcaw is a member of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. She is also the Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries for the Moravian Church, Southern Province.